Asa Hutchinson this afternoon held a press conference to release a letter from former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean defending Hutchinson's record as the undersecretary for border and transportation security at the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security.
Kean co-chaired the 9/11 Commission, which investigated the preparation preceding, and subsequent reaction to, the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
During the third gubernatorial debate on Tuesday, Mike Beebe responded to Hutchinson's comments about illegal immigration by saying, "All you got to do is look at the record. The press, the 9/11 commission, all these other folks have said he failed miserably. That was his No. 1 job, border security. And he didn’t do it. He didn’t do it when he was in Washington."
In his letter, Kean didn't deny the criticism Beebe cited, but he tried to soften it. "The 9/11 Commission has, of course, been critical of the new Department of Homeland Security in some respects, noting areas where improvement is needed," Kean wrote. "These criticisms were never aimed at the men and women who have worked and continue working to secure our nation. Instead, they were intended as a constructive spur to further bipartisan action, from both Congress and the Administration, and ongoing improvement."
Kean says at the end of his letter that Beebe does not have a right to criticize Hutchinson: "I urge those who have never shouldered the burden of protecting our homeland to resist the temptation to malign the integrity and service of those who have. This work is too important. The security of our nation should rise above such petty politics."
(It might be worth noting that Beebe served in the U.S. Army Reserve, whereas Hutchinson never served in the U.S. military. Guess Kean's statement depends on what he means by "shoulder[ing] the burden of protecting our homeland.")
Speaking of "petty politics," Kean was a paid consultant on "The Path to 9/11," the recent discredited ABC television movie that blamed Bill Clinton and his advisers for failing to prevent the attacks. His son, Thomas Kean, Jr., is a Republican currently running for the U.S. Senate in New Jersey.